Final Revised Version, July 2007

Final Revised Version, July 2007

Final Revised version, July 2007

Enabling most deprived children to learn

Lessons from promising practices

Report commissioned by

Department of Elementary Education, MHRD, GOI and

International Labour Organisation, New Delhi

Kameshwari Jandhyala & Vimala Ramachandran

Educational Resource Unit

July 2007


We are grateful to the government and NGO programme leaders to participate in this documentation project. We learnt a great deal from each and every project – thank you!

We thank the Department of Elementary Education, MHRD, GOI and International Labour Organisation, New Delhi for giving us this opportunity. In particular we would like to thank Ms Vrinda Sarup, Mr. Dhir Jhingran, Ms Surina Rajan and Ms Preet Verma for resposing their confidence in Educational Resource Unit.

The case study writers were a wonderful group to work with and we thank each one of them: Amukta Mahapatra, Bharat Patni, Nishi Mehrotra, Deepa Das, Shobhita Rajagopal, Niti Saxena, Binay Pattanayak, Shaktibrata Sen, Shruti Nag, Parismita Singh, Mutum Ashok, Suchitra Vedant, Rashmi Sharma, Naitra Murlykrishnan, K M Sheshagiri, P Prashanti and Padma.

Bhavana Pankaj summarised the case studies and Harsh Sethi ploughed through the synthesis document. Both of them ran their magic pens and made it presentable to the world. Thank You!

Thank you all!

Kameshwari JandhyalaNew Delhi

Vimala Ramachandran 2007

Table of contents

Section 1


Children at risk:

This report

Section 2


1.Planning for Equitable Education: The Experience of Assam

2.Reaching working children: Indus project Virudhnagar 19

3.Activity Based Learning Programme in Schools of the Corporation of Chennai

4.From QIP to CLIP: The case of Andhra Pradesh33

5.School Monitoring Profile, Uttaranchal43

6.Learning Guarantee Program, Karnataka50

7.Combining Deeni Taleem and Duniyavi Taleem: Madarsa Education in Madhya


8.Transforming AP’s Government School Teachers: An MVF intervention70

9.Communitization of Elementary Education in Nagaland77

10.The Pratham intervention in Kutch, Gujarat84

11Active Schools – Latur91

12.Intergrated Learning Improvement Programme – West Bengal101

13.Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI): The case of Karnataka109

14.Strengthening Science Education: Agastya International Foundation116

15. Skill based education, Chandigarh 122

16.School Complexes of Goa131

17.Upscaling an Innovation: the Rishi Valley experience142

Section 3154

Emerging Lessons from 17 Case Studies154

Ensuring meaningful access for children at risk:155

Confronting reality: Going beyond numbers 156

Planning for equity157

Enabling empowered action159

Facilitating two way communications161

Energising the school162

Monitoring and assessment166

Local specific innovation going to scale167

Conclusion: when do promising innovations become best practices?168

Section 1


‘The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.’ (Article 45, Directive Principles of State Policy, The Constitution of India, 1950)
The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine. (86th Amendment, article 21 A, The Constitution of India, December 2002)

The number of primary schools in the country has increased from around 1.76 lakhs (1950-51) to 7.67 lakhs (2004-05). and enrolment in the primary cycle has gone from 19.2 million in 1950 to 131.69 million in 2003-04. At the upper primary stage, the increase in enrolment is by a factor of 13 for all children and 32 for girls. The gross enrolment ratio at the primary stages often exceeds 100 per cent (this phenomenon is fairly common in India because children below and above the 6-14 age group enrol in primary classes), though the net enrolment ratio is about 20 per cent lower (Selected Educational Statistics 1999-2000 and 2004, GOI).

At one level the problem of access seems to have has been significantly addressed with close to 90 per cent children in the 6-11 age group reportedly enrolled in primary schools (formal, EGS/alternative schools and private schools).

Drop out rates have also indicated an encouraging. The Select Education Statistics for 2004-05 indicate that gross drop out rates delclined frim 39.03% in 2001-02 to 28.49% in 2004-05. In the case of girlsthis has been significan at around 15 % points from 39.88% to 24.82% during this same period.[1] Despite these encouraging trends, the drop out issue needs to be carefully tracked as regularity continues to be a problem. For example, the recent ASER 2005[2] report cites that 51% of enrolled children were not in school on the day of the survey, prompting educationists to question the relevance of enrolment data. This data is particularly troubling because an overwhelming proportion of children from disadvantaged groups – especially those who are at risk of dropping out – attend government schools.

Children at risk:

Who are the children who are most at risk of not enrolling or dropping out of school?

  1. Children from very poor households;
  2. Children in migrant families;
  3. Children engaged in paid and unpaid work;
  4. Older girls who take on household responsibilities;
  5. Children in difficult circumstances – like children of sex workers, migrant labour and most recently those affected by HIV and AIDS;
  6. Children with special needs;

Children drop out of school for many reasons – quality, relevance and dysfunctionality being big issues. Yet, there is a significant group of children who are irregular or drop out due to the burden of work. In a recent discussion with officials of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh it emerged that the problem is perhaps most acute in the 10+ age group and among communities that are forced to migrate for work. Describing the enormity of the problem a senior officer explained that close to 40,000 children from AP migrate with their parents for the construction work in urban areas. Recent evidence from the tsunami affected districts of Tamil Nadu reveals that boys in the 10+ age group are pulled out of school to go fishing with their fathers[3]. Similarly, the burgeoning infrastructure sector across the country employs migrant workers from many states. While the younger children may be just hanging around, officials admit that the older children are often put to work. Equally significant is the problem of seasonal employment of children or even of short-term bondage – especially of boys[4].

Another important insight that emerged during the course of doing the 17 case studies and also from discussions with government officials at the state and district levels is that working children who participate in bridge courses / residential programmes are enrolled in formal schools. However, ground level experience in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka reveal that a majority of such children drop out within 3 to 6 months of being “mainstreamed”. The reasons cited were as follows:

 Inability to follow lessons in class – which is linked to quality of education and the fact that teachers are not able to give individual attention to children;

 The attitude and behaviour of children who have always been in school towards former child workers was cited as important reasons for dropping out. Interviews with children reveal that bullying and verbal abuse is fairly common.

 Lack of a support group within the formal school to address the specific needs / concerns of erstwhile child workers.

Drought, floods or any other disaster in the community, illness or indebtedness in the family and any other crisis ends up pulling the children out of school all over again. This is particularly so for older children (11+ age group) and the situation for boys and girls is quite different. A recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (, Report No 15, 2006) has noted that “the average attendance in primary school among boys is 74.2 and girls is 75.3… the percentage of out of school children on account of their having dropped out was higher (54.9%) as compared to those who never attended school (45.1%). The main reasons for not liking to go to schools were the teacher beating up students, activities in the school being very boring and not being able to cope with the happenings in school” (Page 18, CAG Report No 15, 2006)

While there is no reliable estimate on the percentage or the number of children who are working, the moot point is that a combination of a dysfunctional school system, poor learning outcomes and the economic situation of parents push children out of school and into work. They are the ones who are most at risk. Improving the quality of education is therefore quite central in any effort to guarantee education to children who are most at risk.

The situation on the ground is complex. Addressing one or two issues with the exclusion of others does not lead to improvement. Initiatives that address the entire schooling experience as a continuum could lead to positive change. Talking to children in three states in an earlier study done by Educational Resource Unit (2004) revealed that the ability of children to successfully complete primary education depends on multiple factors – as illustrated in the table below:

Table 2: Factors influencing successful primary school completion

Mild +, Strong ++, Very Strong +++ and Extremely Strong ++++
Boys / Girls
Positive / Negative / Positive / Negative
Primary School
Bright and welcoming school / +++ / +++
Building and compound wall / ++ / ++
Teacher pupil ratio between 1:20 and 1:40 / +++ / +++
Teacher-pupil ration very high, above 1:40 and in many areas 1:65. / +++ / +++
Teacher regular / +++ / +++
Teachers irregular / take turns to come / ++ / +++
Actual teaching time very low – less than 45 minutes a day and less than 20 minutes per period. / ++++ / ++++
Actual teaching time satisfactory – more than 1 hour 20 minutes a day and at least 35 minutes per period. / ++++ / ++++
Female teacher who is regular / ++ / ++++
Distribution of textbooks / +++ / +++
Village Education Committee active / ++ / ++
Active SDMC / PTA / School Education Committees / ++++ / ++++
Mid-day meal – hot food / ++++ / ++++
Mid-day meal – dry rations / + / +
Punishment – mild / + / +
Punishment – harsh / ++++ / ++++
Teacher attitude towards poor dismissive / ++ / ++
Teacher exhibits prejudices (caste / gender) / +++ / ++++
Joyful learning methods used / ++ / ++
Children learning to read and write / ++++ / ++++
Learning outcomes poor – children in class 4 and 5 not able to read or write. / +++ / +++
Learning songs, rhymes and poems / +++ / +++
No-detention policy / + / +
Extra-curricular activities / +++ / +++
Enrolment campaigns / ++ / +++
Back-to school campaigns / ++ / +++
Boys / Girls
Positive / Negative / Positive / Negative

Source: Vimala Ramachandran et al, Snakes and Ladders: Factors Influencing Successful Primary School Completion for Children in Poverty Contexts, South Asia Human Development Series, Report No 6, World Bank, New Delhi, 2003

This report

Recognising that the poorest go to government schools and to ensure that the most deprived get a chance to learn and to complete elementary education the government and NGOs have initiated a range of programmes and projects. India has witnessed a number of promising initiatives from which administrators and practitioners can draw important lessons. It is in this backdrop that the Government of India (Department of Education) and the International Labour Organisation decided to study programmes and projects that have successfully addressed issues of quality in government schools – especially for children at risk of dropping out.

We identified 17 promising practices dealing with different dimensions of school improvement for in-depth study out a of larger set of about 48 programmes identified through a scanning of secondary published and unpublished material (see Annexure 2 This report presents 17 case studies and synthesizes the lessons from them.

Though the above programmes (chosen in consultation with GOIt and ILO) exhibit some characteristics that have a potential for replication in the mainstream, we refrain from calling them “best practices” because many of them are relatively new and are yet to be embedded into the system. Individually, however, almost all of them address a few aspects of the schooling experience or the education system.

Section 2


Case Study I

1.Planning for Equitable Education: The Experience of Assam

dr. deepa das[5]

The Turning Point

DESPITE the expansion of the delivery system of elementary education (post DPEP) that included a much larger number of children than ever before, there were some residual issues to contend with when the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) was poised for launch in Assam. Unserved habitations, out-of-school children - particularly at the upper primary level, high dropout and repetition rates, irregular attendance, skewed Pupil Teacher Ratio in pockets; many single-teacher schools and inadequate school infrastructure were some of them. Besides, a fully functional system was also a pressing need in the context of universalisation of elementary education (UEE).

The thrust in the District Primary Education Program (DPEP) was largely on universalizing enrolment. The DPEP experience, however, brought up some vital issues before the SSA in Assam:

 Proportion of out-of-school children in some DPEP districts was fairly high

 Persistent gaps were found in teacher adequacy as a result of the state government’s inability to rationalize and create new positions (the aggregated figure was well within the norms). The position was worse in some interior and remote areas

 The view that the needs of each school were different and merited a school-based approach did not receive due consideration. As a result, the school as a unit for planning remained on paper even though it was an essential precondition of UEE

 DISE data results masked the real problem of unreliable and inflated school enrolment that escaped notice and remained unaccounted for. The relevance of household data, thus, emerged as the basis for informed planning

 Problems of ‘hard core’ children, including working and deprived urban children, those who migrated with parents and disabled children etc. were not fully addressed despite alternative schooling interventions

 Many areas that do not have formal government schools, including tea gardens (which have statutory tea garden management-run schools), and also remote forest areas remained without schooling facilities.

 There was need to focus on specific aspects of UEE based on habitation-centric analysis

 A plan needed to be formulated for universal (physical) access in a systematic manner

A rigorous and efficient approach to work and a transparent and accountable system were a must to provide equitable elementary education. Broadly, the key elements of this approach were:

 Creating clear situational understanding (of gaps, special/unique circumstances, needs) to be able to plan and provide as per identified needs. This was achieved through rigorous analysis of available data/information, updating of the same and creation of new databases through participatory surveys

 Identifying special areas and special groups of children in the state

 Formulating a broad framework for operations

 Rationalizing allocation of resources – the AWP & Bs being the major vehicle for this

 Operationalizing the AWP & B – affirmative action, facilitative guidelines

 Working through partnerships with NGOs, tea garden management, Bharat Scouts and Guides, religious leaders

 Involving the district administration

 Creating special structural arrangements

 Ensuring matching policy shift

 Setting ground rules for operations – rights-based, transparent and accountable

1. Creating the Requisite Situational Understanding

Sharing and analysis of the DPEP experience enabled deeper insights into issues that had to be prioritized and addressed with urgency. Financial allocations, human resource and systemic support in keeping with the disparate needs of the state were recognized as crucial for UEE to be effective. The deliberations also facilitated the concept of a framework of operations. It became clear that ensuring empathy and understanding of the situation among officials at all levels of delivery was critical. It was also important to take the community and its representative bodies into confidence to establish the necessary two-way interaction for better delivery by the system.

2. Identification of Special Areas and Special Groups of Children in the State

Provisioning of elementary education had to be planned for diverse contexts to ensure the inclusion of all children. Most of the special/difficult situations had not received due attention because the planning process was not competent to do so. Therefore, the deprived continued to stay deprived.

The most disadvantaged, in terms of availability and quality of schooling facilities, was a high proportion of out-of-school children in the tea gardens, and border, riverine (char) and hilly areas. There are backward pockets even in the educationally-advanced districts, mainly on account of tea gardens. Non tea-growing areas were found to be much better of compared to the tea-growing areas in terms of the number of out-of-school children and merited special attention.

With this as the backdrop, criteria-based identification was done, and four types of special and educationally-backward areas were listed:

Type A: All tea gardens

Type B: Educationally-disadvantaged areas (age-specific enrolment rate <60, 65, 70)

Type C: Remote, inaccessible areas

(i)All villages/areas (non-revenue village)/CRCs which are, at least, 20 km from the block headquarters and any part of the distance has to be traversed by public transport + boat + bicycle/on foot.

(ii)All villages/areas (non revenue village)/CRCs which are at least 20 km from the block headquarter with public transport facility (bus/shared auto) and a distance of at least 10 km with no transport facility (20 km by public transport + 10 km by bicycle/on foot).

Type D: Other categories: Insurgency/ethnic conflict prone areas, urban slums and pockets of high incidence of child labour.

Lists of these areas were verified, notified, corrected and published. Special arrangements were made for stepping up implementation, technical support, monitoring and supervision in these areas.

3. Formulating a Broad Framework for Operations

The government recognized its role in augmenting the delivery systems of elementary education. It agreed that providing schooling facilities in the first place was the basic minimum condition for learning and providing quality education. It evolved a framework for operations with a strong rights and people-centric perspective. It nurtured this approach to make education easily accessible and more accountable and the stage was set for fulfilling the constitutional objective of free and compulsory education to all 6-14 year old children. This implied: